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UK football's first day in pads a success

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Spring practice began in earnest for Kentucky football on Wednesday, as the Wildcats wore pads for the first time.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot called it a day of good work, specifically praising the way his defense played in the run game.

"Emphasis was on being physical and for the most part we were able to do that," Eliot said. "Played the run well today."

Wednesday was the first step in a spring-long effort to take UK's physicality to the next level in Mark Stoops' third season as head coach. To continue the growth that carried that Cats from two wins in 2013 to five in 2014, there's no choice in the matter.

"I expect us to be more physical every year," Eliot said. "That's the emphasis. We have to--in this league, that's the key and we're harping on it. Today is first day of pads and we're going to continue to harp on it through the spring."

With the likes of Bud Dupree, Za'Darius Smith and Ashely Lowery having graduated, UK is having to adjust in terms of personnel. That's resulting in some fits and starts, but Eliot isn't concerned.

"You got some new guys in some new spots so still making some assignment mistakes, but nothing that we can't get cleaned up by the end of the spring," Eliot said.

The important thing at this point, says Eliot, is effort. That part the Cats have covered.

"Emphasis on playing with intensity and playing with enthusiasm and running to the football and for the most part we've been able to get that done the first three practices," Eliot said. "Very excited about this group and excited about finishing the work with these guys the rest of the spring."

Video: Pre-SEC Tournament press conference

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The Kentucky football team held its second practice of the spring on Monday morning.

To follow up a solid day of work on Saturday, the Wildcats took another step forward.

"Guys had good energy for a Monday morning, came out and had a real good practice," Mark Stoops said. "Still obviously got a lot of work to do, but overall pleased, pleased with their attitude, their effort. Playing a little bit cleaner. There weren't as many footballs on the ground today and execution was a touch better. Just overall pleased with the effort. Continuing to get better and work hard."

Stoops is preparing for his third season as UK head coach and is already noticing growth from his first two springs with his team. The evolution continues.

"It's just another year in the program," Stoops said. "As we would expect, just more progress, more bodies, a little bit cleaner, more efficient in what we're doing. We're certainly further ahead than we were day two last spring, but we should be, and that's good to see."

Under Stoops, UK has been blessed with continuity on the coaching staff for the most part, but a new face has been added to the equation this spring. Shannon Dawson is replacing Neal Brown as offensive coordinator and though two coaches' scheme is similar, there's learning to be done.

That's especially true when it comes to communication.

"They're getting signals from me, and then they're communicating with the group," Dawson said of quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Drew Barker. "That's all like learning a new language. It's like if I told you to learn Spanish in two days. That'd be tough, right? I mean just communication is -- and you've got some miscommunication. You've got the quarterback flashing signals quickly to the receiver and the receiver not getting it, which is typical."


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